When the weather dips into the single digits, most of us want to do nothing but dive back under the covers.
And for good reason: With extreme cold weather comes health hazards like frostbite, seasonal affective disorder and even an increased risk of heart attacks.
But before you curse the weather until April, there are a few silver linings of this bitter cold.
Steve Cole via Getty Images
You may have heard of "brown fat," a type of fat found naturally in parts of the body that, when triggered, can burn off other "white" fat. In a 2012 study, researchers found that cold weather seemed to set the brown fat into motion, and that simply being cold could cause significant calorie burn
. (Exercise may have a similar effect, as demonstrated in a study from around the same time, the New York Times reported.)
The study, admittedly, was small -- it only included six healthy men, to be exact. And experts caution that the obesity epidemic is not likely to be solved by the creation of a brown-fat triggering pill
. But at least the idea might offer a little comfort when you find yourself chilled to the bone.
It can be tempting to spend the coldest mornings safely tucked under the covers; it's only natural to want to avoid the most brutal temps. But during periods of such weather-induced isolation, we tend to reach out to contact our closest friends and family on the phone, and end up chatting with them for longer than usual
, according to a 2012 study.
Yen Teoh via Getty Images
nolimitpictures via Getty Images
There's a reason putting ice on an injury works. That drop in temperature reduces inflammation in, say, a sprained ankle or stubbed toe. But the theory works on a much grander scale, too -- cold temperatures can reduce inflammation and pain all over.
In fact, athletes and spa-goers even have a remedy of sorts available for muscle recovery. A 2011 study found that, at extremely low temperatures, such treatments, called cryotherapy
, did more for athletes to recover from physical activity than simply resting. Runners who were exposed to temperatures as low as -166 degrees F recovered from exercise faster than those who given other therapies or told to rest, The Atlantic reported.
At spas, cryotherapy chambers appear much like steam rooms -- with, of course, the opposite effect. And while the majority of us probably won't be taking a trip to the cold room
, it certainly beats summer swelling!
While we certainly don't advise going all-out on the wintertime comfort foods
, we do appreciate the escape from the pressure to get a "bikini body." It's a great time to focus on fitness -- hello, New Year's resolutions -- without the pressure to do so for your looks alone.